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Ask Slashdot: Project Scope For MLB Robot Umpires?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the go-tigers dept.

Robotics 141

nightcats writes "The League Championship Series of baseball are upon us, and numerous sports media pundits, armies of fans at comment boards, and TV people are openly debating the possibility of robot umpires coming to Major League Baseball, to either replace or enhance the human umps' work on the field. Question: what kind of project are we reasonably talking about here? What would the scope and length be from planning/design to user testing/implementation (presumably in a spring training/minor league setting)? What kinds of hardware (video scanners, touch-sensitive bases/foul lines, etc.) and software would be required?" And, as long as we're on the subject — do you think it would be good for the game?

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Wouldn't be good for any game (2)

ebbe11 (121118) | more than 2 years ago | (#37688332)

There goes your excuse for calling the umpire an idiot.

Re:Wouldn't be good for any game (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 2 years ago | (#37688346)

There goes your excuse for calling the umpire an idiot.

Well, you could argue about the correctness of the software. Calling the developers idiots included.

Re:Wouldn't be good for any game (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692018)

Manager comes out to argue a bad call:

Manager: Would you throw me out of the game if I called you an asshole?

Umpire: I certainly would.

Manager: What if I just thought it?

Umpire: Well that's fine, you can think what you want.

Manager: Ok. Well I think you're an asshole!

That umpire has been hacked (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692322)

There goes your excuse for calling the umpire an idiot.

Not really. Human or electronic the umpire will be "confronted". "Hey ump clean your glasses" becomes "Hey IT clean the ump's optical sensor", "That umpire has been bought" becomes "That umpire has been hacked".

there's an app for that! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37688342)

All we need is a smartphone with stereo vision, and the ump could be a smartphone hooked up to a bullhorn that yells "STRIIIIKE."

Alternately, if MLB offered a $10,000 competition for a Kinect app, and you'll get at least a few dozen different highly polished entires a week later. Half of them will work flawlessly, because they're written by out of work engineers that have been waiting for their big break.

As for whether it would be good for the game? I couldn't give two shits. Baseball is boring as hell. But writing an app to call ball/strike/foul would be VERY interesting ... for about a week.

Re:there's an app for that! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37688760)

I see. So it calls STRIIIKE. I think the players do that often enough. When the owners aren't calling "LOCKOOOUT". But, if you really want the umps to be robots you are going to need touch sensors in the bases, in the gloves and in the ball. How else is some phucking robot going to know that "the second baseman touched the base, with the ball in his glove, before the runner touched the base". You really wouldn't rely on optical sensors for that would you?

Re:there's an app for that! (2)

0123456789 (467085) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689760)

Don't the human umpires rely on optical sensors?

Wouldn't that take a lot from the game? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37688354)

Spectator-sports are all about emotions. You can feel strongly about the decision of an umpire if he's human and rules against your team or for the "enemy". If that's done by some hidden array of sensors, this aspect of the game is dead and the whole experience just got a whole lot more sterile and less enjoyable.

Just because something is technically possible doesn't mean it's a good idea.

Re:Wouldn't that take a lot from the game? (2)

julesh (229690) | more than 2 years ago | (#37688390)

Sorry, you'd rather have the umpire rule incorrectly against your team sometimes, because it pisses you off when it happens, and you want sport to piss you off sometimes. Is that really what you're saying?

Frankly, as far as I see it, the point of a spectator sport is to allow you to get behind a group of people who are really good at what they do, and hope that they do really well against other similar groups. I don't think incorrect enforcement of rules is a necessary part of this experience.

Re:Wouldn't that take a lot from the game? (3, Interesting)

lucm (889690) | more than 2 years ago | (#37688606)

In many spectator sports, hating the ref is a big part of the fun; baseball in the USA, ice hockey in Canada, soccer in Europe (especially Italy).

Having a flawless robot instead of a ref would be like an episode of 24 where Jack Bauer is not slowed down by people of the FBI trying to arrest him while he is trying to find a nuclear bomb hidden by terrorists in downtown LA. The "enemy" would still be there but the spectator would feel cheated.

Re:Wouldn't that take a lot from the game? (1)

Libertarian001 (453712) | more than 2 years ago | (#37690092)

Hating the ref is not part of the game and it's that idiot mentality that ruins the game. No one goes to a game to see a ref; they go to see the players. The refs need to disappear into the background as much as possible, only surfacing long enough to halt play for rules infractions and to explain to the audience why, before disappearing again.

Behavioral Theory (3, Interesting)

alexander_686 (957440) | more than 2 years ago | (#37690298)

Hating the ump is not the “fun: part of the game – it’s a defense mechanism called Self Serving Bias.

Remember, the fan is the “10th player” – they contribute to the success or failure of the game. When the picture pitches and fails, the fan has two choices.

Rationally ascribe the failure to their team – and thus themselves – and recognize that they are a failure. Or they can protect their ego and blame the Ump.

Re:Wouldn't that take a lot from the game? (1)

DrStrange66 (654036) | more than 2 years ago | (#37690626)

Any true baseball fan knows that interaction of the players and the coaches with the umpire really adds to the dynamics of the game. To quote Mark Grace, "That's Big League!"

Re:Wouldn't that take a lot from the game? (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692214)

Any true baseball fan wants the outcome determined solely by the players and the coaches. Umpire mistakes are no different than fan interference and diminish the purity of the game.

Re:Wouldn't that take a lot from the game? (1)

Raenex (947668) | more than 2 years ago | (#37691710)

In many spectator sports, hating the ref is a big part of the fun

The inconsistency of umpires is one of the reasons I stopped watching baseball. It isn't fun at all. It takes away from the competitiveness of the game.

Re:Wouldn't that take a lot from the game? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37688782)

you want sport to piss you off sometimes. Is that really what you're saying?

Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. Sure, I don't exactly want to be pissed off for the sake of being pissed off, but for the sake of emotion and sports not being boring and determinate.

Spectator-sports are social events. They mustn't be uncontroversial and predictable. After all, what makes for better after-game rants with your fellow fans: the controversial decision of a fallible human umpire or some unquestionable sensor reading?

Re:Wouldn't that take a lot from the game? (1)

ranton (36917) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689884)

Sorry, you'd rather have the umpire rule incorrectly against your team sometimes, because it pisses you off when it happens, and you want sport to piss you off sometimes. Is that really what you're saying?

Hey, whatever it takes to actually enjoy watching baseball. Especially on TV, without the atmosphere that comes from watching any sporting event live.

Re:Wouldn't that take a lot from the game? (1)

Politburo (640618) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689048)

Racing is judged by electronics, same with fencing, and it is used in the challenge system in tennis. It hasn't made these sports "sterile" or any less enjoyable.

There is nothing enjoyable in having your team's season ended by an incorrect call (2003 Giants vs. Niners).

Re:Wouldn't that take a lot from the game? (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689516)

I think that it's not so much about the emotion of bringing another human into the equation. My line of thinking is that the game is played by humans, and humans are imperfect, so if it's judged by humans then their imperfections cancel out. I'm thinking about the throwing controversy with Muralitharan. If it's obvious enough that the human umpire can notice it, then it's bad enough to be called. We don't need to get into specifics of how many degrees of straightening is allowed.

The flip side of the coin is that the TV coverage will use whatever computer enhancements they can get, so if the umpire does make a mistake, it's obvious to everyone, rather than just a talking point over a few beers after the game. Rather than make people try to umpire, then give them shit when they aren't as good as a computer, it's probably better to just get the computer to do it.

On the whole, I think that we do lose something by going to robotic umpires, but it'll be better for the game in the long run.

Re:Wouldn't that take a lot from the game? (2)

myth24601 (893486) | more than 2 years ago | (#37690494)

A much better way to improve umpiring is a challenge/replay system like other sports have implemented for the purpose of reversing the most egregious calls. There is already a system in place to use replay to check home run calls but nothing else.

There are a lot of issues that would have to be considered in order to implement a system in baseball. Foul balls called fair can easily be reversed since everything resets back on a foul ball but you can't always go the other way and reverse a fair ball (in the case of a home run but that is already addressed now) that was called foul since the foul call stopped all action at that point. Reversing a call at first is trivial in many situations but not always (a third out will stop all action but if it is reversed and others are on base, they could have moved to other bases or scored on a safe call).

Football has some of the issues but usually the thing that is challenged are play stoppage issues anyway (was the ball carrier down before the fumble, was the receiver in bounds, did the ball cross the plane of the goal line).

Re:Wouldn't that take a lot from the game? (1)

Altus (1034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37690714)

yea but you can't do that for balls/strikes and that is a huge part of the problem. Also, having automated fair/foul would be good because you wouldn't be stopping the play. If you replay and a foul call turns out to be fair, you end up with the problem of where to put the runner, would he have made it to second on that ball? If the fair/foul call is automated the play would proceed normally.

 

Hawk-Eye, and done (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37688358)

Pretty much everything could be accomplished using cameras, and software like Hawkeye (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawk-Eye).

This is what they use in tennis to track balls moving well over 200km/h. It is supposedly accurate to within the fuzz on the tennis ball. This can handle strikes/balls, foul calls, home runs, and potentially even tag-outs.

The technology is there. I remember hearing that it took a trailer full of electronics to draw the first-down line in football a decade ago, and now it can be run on a high end laptop.

In baseball, with the rising number of incorrect calls at the plate, I'm all for electronic verification. We saw a perfect game (or was it a no-hitter...) stolen last year by a bad call at first base. The strongest argument against using these techniques is that it increases the barrier to entry for kids to "really" be playing the game they see on TV. With sports like soccer, options like these are rarely considered for this reason. To match what the kids see on TV, they need a few posts, a ball, and maybe their favorite player's jersey. Add cameras, and you've added an element no child can hope to include in their own game with their friends.

Re:Hawk-Eye, and done (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37690672)

Couldn't the kids play with a human umpire? I mean it would be sort of like baseball with a "perfect" robot umpire.. just potentially a few bad calls... They'd still throw and hit the ball the same way right? Soccer for example: as a kid we never played on regulation size fields (even in German high school, where soccer is taken VERY seriously), we played on much smaller fields... seemed ok at the time..

Re:Hawk-Eye, and done (1)

gumbi west (610122) | more than 2 years ago | (#37691598)

It's not that simple. Strikes and ball depend on the stature and even stance of the batter. The current system uses three cameras and the makers say it is not ready to take over officiating. As for "did he get tagged" that is really hard to say.

The best I can see is augmentation.

Re:Hawk-Eye, and done (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692262)

Not inside or outside. That never changes.

Re:Hawk-Eye, and done (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692152)

Seems this is would be one of the few good things that pro sports would bring to society. The fact that kids couldn't get the cameras isn't an issue. Kids also can't get full pro sports stadiums, professional umpires, steroids (Well, OK, some of them can), the quality of equipment, and a host of other features that the pro sports have. That doesn't mean they can't play the game.

As you pointed out, the tech gets cheaper. It gets cheaper fast. If electronic umpires became the norm, you would likely see the price drop to consumer levels really quick. With 9 positions for each side, even $40 a piece could pay for a $360 umpiring system. For all but the most casual of players, the kids will be spending way more than that on playing sports. For the casual games, it wouldn't be out of line to have casual human umpires.

The cost barrier of entry for amateurs is a non-issue.

Re:Hawk-Eye, and done (1)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692324)

Not exactly baseball fans here, are we? Anyone remember the big QuesTec [wikipedia.org] dust up a few years back? The system to detect balls and strikes already exists and is already in place to evaluate how umpires are doing. QuesTec was a limited deployment that is now gone but Zone Evaluation is the replacement system that's now in place in every MLB ball park. It's making live evaluations alongside the umpires to make sure they're making decent calls. It would take exactly zero effort at this point to let Zone Eval be the final say in the matter.

Everyone said it would ruin tennis... (3, Insightful)

PRMan (959735) | more than 2 years ago | (#37688360)

But all that's changed in tennis is McEnroe's endless rants about bad line calls. Tennis has never been better. Umpires should still call out/safe calls, but ball/strike should have been given to a computer long ago, especially seeing what an inconsistent job the umps do at it.

Re:Everyone said it would ruin tennis... (1)

Chewbacon (797801) | more than 2 years ago | (#37688916)

"The officiating in this league is, at best, substandard." -- Chipper Jones. Not a Braves fan, but there were some bullshit calls that game. Machines don't have a favorite team unless Anonymous tells them to have one.

Re:Everyone said it would ruin tennis... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37689480)

That's hilarious. I'm curious as to which league is in possession of Umpires of Standard, and whether or not the Chipster has played in it.

He must get that crap from Cox.

Re:Everyone said it would ruin tennis... (4, Interesting)

KillaBeave (1037250) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689158)

IAAFLLU (I am a former little league umpire) - I'd be all for having a sensor based ball/strike call. Nothing more annoying than having 1/2 the fans yelling strike and 1/2 yelling ball ... over a game for 9yr olds. A simple red/green light somewhere would be perfect. In my opinion the home plate ump is still needed though to ensure that foul balls are picked up properly and judge if the batter swung or not (some of those calls are really close). Not to mention tag out situations. If the system was a simple boolean limited to "was the ball in the strike-zone" or not I think it could improve the game by a large amount.

Re:Everyone said it would ruin tennis... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37689620)

SMUNA

Re:Everyone said it would ruin tennis... (1)

Zebraheaded (1229302) | more than 2 years ago | (#37691200)

The difference is that Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, and Rafael Nadal all have the same tennis court. Out for one is out for all.

John Rauch (6'11") and Dustin Pedroia (5'8") do not have the same strike zone, though. Hell, Dustin Pedroia could have five different correct strike zones over the course of a single game.

The strike zone is subjective, the tennis court is not. That's the difference.

Re:Everyone said it would ruin tennis... (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692206)

A shoulder patch and a knee patch with a marker in the ball, and a strike zone would be trivial to determine electronically.

Re:Everyone said it would ruin tennis... (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692140)

especially seeing what an inconsistent job the umps do at it.

Baseball is a game of tradition. One of those traditions is each umpire having their own quirks, the calls of balls and strikes being one of them.

I suppose the next step is to standardize every field to precise dimensions.

Good for balls and strikes (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37688368)

Most broadcasts now have a "pitch zone" and you can watch the umps get it wrong regularly enough that robotic calls and strikes could be useful.

Re:Good for balls and strikes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37688820)

The pitch zone isn't the be all and end all of accuracy either. The pitch zone isn't the Hawkeye system mentioned above.

Re:Good for balls and strikes (1)

ibennetch (521581) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689262)

As the other AC commented, these pitch zone graphics aren't always accurate. It's a pretty complex system that needs to be calibrated properly each game, and that calibration could be affected throughout the game. In most ballparks, the camera angle isn't straight-on, so sometimes what you think you see is misleading. So while I'm under no delusions about the accuracy of umpires, I'm also not glued to the TV watching the pitch zone graphic, either.

Re:Good for balls and strikes (1)

macromorgan (2020426) | more than 2 years ago | (#37690306)

The strike zone also varies from batter to batter (the lower boundary is the batters kneecaps, and the upper boundary is the midpoint between the batters shoulders and belt). The robots would have to be able to enforce a varying strike zone for every player which makes it that much harder I believe. A robot that was able to measure whether or not a ball is inside or outside (since those dimensions of the strike zone do not vary) would be somewhat useful, but even then most of the "blown calls" I see are from high or low strikes incorrectly called balls, mostly the low strike.

Re:Good for balls and strikes (2)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692228)

A uniform requirment that put a patch on the players knee, shoulder and belt would make it trivial for a computerized visual system to determine EXACTLY where the strike zone is.

Re:Good for balls and strikes (3, Interesting)

way2slo (151122) | more than 2 years ago | (#37690188)

The problems with the TV Networks "pitch zone" is that they are 2 dimensional, do not change for each batter, and the TV viewer has trouble seeing the true motion of the pitch. The strike zone covers all of home plate, including depth. Many pitchers use "back door" breaking balls/sliders to try and hit the very back side of the strike zone. In the "pitch zone" these would look like a ball, when in fact it crossed the plate in the zone. Also, the strike zone changes height for each batter as defined in the rules as the batter waits for the pitch. These "pitch zone" displays never do. Lastly, pitch movement is hard to pick up on television, especially when depth is involved. Pitches can curve around the strike zone and appear to be strikes as well as curve into the back of the strike zone. It is hard to tell from a single camera.

Re:Good for balls and strikes (1)

Raenex (947668) | more than 2 years ago | (#37691934)

Your post is completely wrong.

they are 2 dimensional

The pitch zones use multiple cameras and track the ball in 3 dimensions.

Many pitchers use "back door" breaking balls/sliders to try and hit the very back side of the strike zone. In the "pitch zone" these would look like a ball, when in fact it crossed the plate in the zone.

The problem is that the computers are good at catching these, and umpires are not.

Also, the strike zone changes height for each batter as defined in the rules as the batter waits for the pitch. These "pitch zone" displays never do.

This is taken into account also.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QuesTec [wikipedia.org]

bribery (0)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37688396)

do you think it would be good for the game?

It would be bad because only a couple extremely well financed and large organizations could bribe the ump by reprogramming it, instead of the current system where anybody with cash can do it. Essentially, interference with a free market is gonna screw it up. I'm not sure why anyone other than the mob will benefit from this change.

It could do "strike" "ball" but they will still need a human there anyway to enforce other rules "wait a second, that isn't an approved kind of bat" "the catcher called the batter a n-word to distract him during the pitch, mandatory walk" or "the batter intentionally spit upon the catcher, ejection from game" or whatever other obscure rules they have.

Re:bribery (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37688484)

That first paragraph is a little dumb.

Re:bribery (3, Interesting)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | more than 2 years ago | (#37688568)

Mmmmm... first, the issue that from your words it looks like every umpire in every game in every sport is being bribed, or in risk of being. So much for conspiracy theories. There are economic interests in the game and when this happens there is always a risk of illegal behavior, ok. Jumping from that to "the system looks legit because there are too many groups trying to rig it" is quite unfounded. We know that for some people "free market" is the blanket answer to every question, but this is ridiculous.

Second. Right now, if someone bribes an umpire, it cannot be proven other than by the money movement. An umpire does fail? It was not a good day for him. The fails favour only one of the sides? Bad luck. Change that against "the robot code is calibrated before the game, the SHA1 of the code compared with the official one, then calibrated again after the game and stored for independ review" and you get that cheating with robots is orders of magnitude more difficult than with human umpires. Changes in robots are traceable. An incorrect decision? Go to the program, feed the same input, find if it is a software bug or manipulation. You would need to have a signficant part of the organization in your pocket for it to work. If you think that someone can get away with it, I think it is safe to assume that "that someone" can already be owning all of the umpires, all of the officials, all of the teams, all of the games now.

Re:bribery (1)

Grave (8234) | more than 2 years ago | (#37688776)

There is also the fact that most broadcasts now show a visual of the pitch location, making any cheating exceedingly obvious to the viewers.

Re:bribery (1)

ibennetch (521581) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689292)

As I mentioned a few lines above here, these pitch zone graphics aren't always accurate. It's a pretty complex system that needs to be calibrated properly each game, and that calibration could be affected throughout the game. In most ballparks, the camera angle isn't straight-on, so sometimes what you think you see is misleading. Not to mention the fact that the camera location is on the order of 500 feet away from the plate while the umpire is like three feet away. So while I'm under no delusions about the accuracy of umpires, I'm also not glued to the TV watching the pitch zone graphic, either.

Re:bribery (1)

andyring (100627) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689832)

Just like cheating with electronic voting machines is orders of magnitude more difficult than paper ballots?

Not as good as killing Bob Costas (2)

wrencherd (865833) | more than 2 years ago | (#37688534)

An automated system for sensing and interpreting play on a baseball diamond wouldn't really be "robotic" would it?

It would rather be a system of cameras and sensors and some calibrated displays so that close plays in the physical world could be replayed and interpreted.

(Killing Bob Costas would not only be good for baseball, but just in general make the world a better place.)

And don't miss Joe Morgan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37688664)

Fire Joe Morgan! [firejoemorgan.com]

It's been a few years since it's been updated, but it's great to get a feel for the crap passed off as sports "journalism". And one strongly suspects non-sports "journalism" is no better....

Re:Not as good as killing Bob Costas (1)

Rolgar (556636) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689254)

Baseball has sensors that currently track every pitch of every game. This info is available to the teams and any fan or journalist willing to pay. Detailed trajectory data is kept, totaling approximately 700,000 pitches a year (2430 games (plus playoffs) at 250-300 pitches per game).

For balls and strikes where every umpire calls a different strike zone, and it could change from one pitch to the next. The desire of many fans is for this information to passed immediately to the umpire or scoreboard without the umpire's judgement to come into play. I'm not sure if the sensors would be used to detect a swing and miss, or if the umpires would override the system when it happens.

All other calls would be still called by the umpires. Baseball has implemented replay which is what you described .

Re:Not as good as killing Bob Costas (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689536)

A "robot" is an automated system, it doesn't have to be autonomous or even ambulatory.

Re:Not as good as killing Bob Costas (1)

wrencherd (865833) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689914)

. . . it doesn't have to be autonomous or even ambulatory.

I agree that a "robot" doesn't have to move around, but "not autonomous" seems to mean that any refined measurement system––like the one used in pro tennis, or even a good thermometer––qualifies as well. That appears to be the kind of thing that this question is asking about.

Maybe it's just a personal bias, but it seems like a robot should not only sensor/measure the environment, but react "autonomously" to it, like do some useful work.

Indicating whether a given pitch falls within in the parameters of a strike zone (to be established for each individual player?) might move the system from "thermometer" to "thermostat", but still doesn't seem like a full-fledged robot.

Silly question (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 2 years ago | (#37688610)

I will gladly provide you an estimate of the scope for such a development effort. My consulting fee is $150/hour.

What, you expected people to plan your project for you gratis? Why would anyone do that? It will take days of work to properly estimate something like that.

Re:Silly question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37688660)

If they were looking for professional grade work, rather that a bunch of people halfassedly throwing feces around, they wouldn't have posted it on slashdot.

Rob Malda? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37688662)

Huh, I'd thought Rob Malda wasn't posting anymore :)

AR headset for ump (3, Interesting)

jpapon (1877296) | more than 2 years ago | (#37688706)

Give the umpire behind the plate some sort of augmented reality HUD headset that shows the strikezone and highlights the ball as it comes over the plate. The feed from the Umps headset could also be used in broadcasts. Uses technology without removing the human element of the game. I'll start working on it if MLB wants to pony up the cash...most (if not all) of it would just be COTS hardware.

Strat-O-Matic Program (1)

retroworks (652802) | more than 2 years ago | (#37688938)

You could probably just run the whole game on statistics and quantum probability. Despite where the ball actually fell, over the course of N games the ball was statistically most likely to fall over there, based on the records of this batter, pitcher and field. This would be less costly than "optical hardware". So all you need are past statistics and a random number generator. The number of "bad calls" would be statistically equal over time.

To rip off Keith Law: small sample size (1)

jtseng (4054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37688994)

I've heard many a player interviewed when they say they're OK with umps making a mistake during the regular season because they all even out during the course of those games. During this last ALDS I thought the umps were terrible with calling balls and strikes, especially during Game 3 of NYY @ DET. There were many instances of CC Sabathia not getting strike calls when his pitches hit the edges of the strike zone (pitchers would very often get that call during the season), while Justin Verlander would get strike calls when the pitches were sailing over the inside edge of the other batter's box. Mistakes like this cannot be evened out during the course of a 5- or 7-game series; such mistakes have an obvious impact on the outcome of a series.

Re:To rip off Keith Law: small sample size (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37690300)

You are a Yankee's fan, aren't you?

Re:To rip off Keith Law: small sample size (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 2 years ago | (#37690848)

Boo frickin' hoo. Every other team in the league has been a victim of the "Yankees zone".

Even worse was the (non) double play at third in game 4 of the 2009 ALCS.
The umpire was standing right there, and blew it.

Well... (3, Funny)

Syberz (1170343) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689050)

It would certainly be funny to see a red-faced coach screaming at a camera that it should get its lenses cleaned and sensors calibrated.

Good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37689228)

Robots can't be bored

1998 World Series (1)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689258)

Padres struck out Jeeter, he even began walking away from the plate. The ump called it foul. All video replays showed essentially a perfect pitch. Even the commentators couldn't see how it was a foul.

It essentially turned the tide of the world series as Jeter would go on to hit a home run. The Yankees had hitherto been getting their butts kicked. But when you have to pitch 4 strikes, it changes all the odds. This will eliminate a LOT of bought off umps as well.

Likewise, soccer, World Cup last year. The U.S. team won, but the ref called foul on U.S. Video replay showed NO foulable actions on the part of the U.S. However, the opposing team had three U.S. soccer players locked in bear hugs.

Yes, clearly a case of bought off ref. Who essentially affected the playoff season. One might say he's lucky, if he did that to any of the numberous fanatical football following countries he'd be a dead ump. Thankfully for his life, American's are not that big into soccer football.

Re:1998 World Series (2)

yohaas (228469) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689650)

Padres struck out Jeeter, he even began walking away from the plate. The ump called it foul. All video replays showed essentially a perfect pitch. Even the commentators couldn't see how it was a foul.

It essentially turned the tide of the world series as Jeter would go on to hit a home run. The Yankees had hitherto been getting their butts kicked. But when you have to pitch 4 strikes, it changes all the odds. This will eliminate a LOT of bought off umps as well.

Jeter didn't have any home runs in the 1998 World Series. Other than that, good story.

What you may be referring to is the 2-2 pitch to Tino Martinez in the 7th inning of game 1. With the bases loaded and two out, Tino took a pitch that was probably a strike. The umpire called it a ball and then Tino hit the next pitch in the the upper deck giving the Yankees a 9-5 lead. Of course at that point, the game was already tied. The Yankees ended up sweeping the Padres so it may be difficult to blame 1 pitch.

Horrible Idea (1)

SoVi3t (633947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689326)

Catchers would become a lot more useless, no longer being able to try to affect the umpire's call by moving his hand when catching the ball (to move an obvious ball to being in the strike zone), not to mention strike zones can change depending on a batter's height, stance, etc. I could, however, see them use it to judge how accurate umpires are, to at least keep them on their toes.

Re:Horrible Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37689562)

to try to affect the umpire's call by moving his hand when catching the ball (to move an obvious ball to being in the strike zone)

FYI: The tactic to which you are referring is known as 'framing a pitch.'

The More You Know.

The real question is.. (1)

xclr8r (658786) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689368)

Is it good for us? Robot flubs the call - it gets called a programming error and the lynch-mobs are after anyone who has a pocket protector.

Already there, just not used (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37689452)

Already there. They have been installed in most stadiums for years. That's how they get the graphics to display on telecasts. They have also used this information to determine if there is racial bias in calls. http://www.freakonomics.com/2011/07/01/strike-three-do-mlb-umpires-express-racial-bias-in-calling-balls-and-strikes/ Short answer: there is slight racial bias (umpires of the same race as the pitcher give them a tiny but measurable amount of help). This bias disappears as umpires gain experience.

MLB needs more replay NBA,NHL,NFL have it (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689460)

But why does the MLB limited it so much when there needs to be more?

Re:MLB needs more replay NBA,NHL,NFL have it (1)

sbillard (568017) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692314)

The progression of events that can occur after a ball is put in play makes too much instant replay hard or impossible.
It's working well for home run review and I agree with others in this thread it can be expanded to calling balls/strikes.

Things happen on the field very quickly in response to out/safe calls. One things leads to another and in rapid succession. Very hard to unwind and make right the events of a play if an "out" call was changed to "safe", or the other way around.

Runners on 1st and 3rd. 1 out. Batter hits into a 5-4 fielder's choice with an E3 on the play (error at first).
The runner at 3rd base got looked back, was not able to score on the play. Remains at 3rd.
Batter takes 2nd base on the error.
Play is challenged and upon further review, base runner was safe at 2nd.
The error at first is not in dispute, so what do you do with the 3 base runners?
Load the bases? Not fair to the batter who should be at 2nd.
Award the run from 3rd with runners now at 2nd and 3rd? Not fair to the fielding team where the slowpoke at 3rd could not score even with the ball getting thrown all around the infield.
... and a million other scenarios. Now imagine more than 1 call during a single play getting overturned.

Not saying we should not have more automation, just saying baseball is different in some ways that make replay review hard to do fairly and consistently. It's the nature of the game - and a beautiful game it is.

My opinion as an umpire... (3, Informative)

pwileyii (106242) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689522)

As someone that has attended one of the two professional umpire schools in Florida and had conversations with the umpires actually working in MLB, I'd like to bring some perceptive to this. These umpires are highly trained, high paid individuals that are the cream of the crop in their profession. They are under constant scrutiny from the Umpire Supervisor (who is Charlie Reliford, an excellent umpire in his own right) and his observers who ensure they are performing to the best of their ability. Obviously, mistakes are made and with instant replay, we can relive them over and over again. Umpiring is about being in the right spot at the right time to see the play and make the call. It is 95% positioning and 5% actually calling what you see. If you aren't in the right position, that is when you get in trouble.

Back to robots and their place in the field of umpiring. I think monitoring fair/foul like in tennis and similar things is a valid application, but anything beyond that is not very feasible as proper positioning is very subjective to the situation. I'd think that some sort of eye piece with a HUD that was able to track the ball and allow the umpire to reply what he saw would be the best option for baseball. Not sure if it at all feasible, but I don't think you'd get too much opposition for the umpire association. Instant reply has problems with when should it be used, how long should it take, and the like. Nearly all plays in baseball have significance and have the chance to alter a game, especially during a close game. Baseball can already be a long game and IR would just add to it.

Re:My opinion as an umpire... (1)

Glsai (840331) | more than 2 years ago | (#37691140)

I've always thought Rick at ballparkmagic had a great idea for instant replay and having it so it doesn't affect the length of the game. (there is a lot of discussion and reasoning he puts forth, but I excerpted the basics below. http://www.ballparkmagic.com/Tools.html [ballparkmagic.com] The replay ump watches a monitor constantly, most likely in one of the camera wells or in another place adjacent to the field designated for this purpose. He sees replays of everything, much like the viewers at home. He is concentrating on the game constantly just like all the other umps, only by watching the camera coverage instead of the direct action. He has access to every camera angle (home, visitor, Fox, TBS, scoreboard, etc.), though he probably doesn't need all of them. One good angle is usually enough. After a controversial play, if there's an argument, the manager has the right to ask for a review of the play (politely, of course). The umpire on the field decides whether to allow the appeal. If not allowed, there's no recourse. If allowed, the replay ump's decision is final. If the replay ump sees a potentially game-changing error (like the Mauer foul call or the non-double-play in Anaheim), he would have the responsibility to alert the crew chief immediately that the call was blown and needed to be fixed.

Re:My opinion as an umpire... (2)

pwileyii (106242) | more than 2 years ago | (#37691980)

That does seem like the most feasible option if it is added to the complete game. The problem with this approach is still how it is applied. I think an example of this is with swing/no swing call. An umpire (not the catcher) can appeal to the first or third base umpire to determine if a batter offered at a pitch. He can only do this if he determined the batter did not. If he determined the batter did, the call stands, no appeal is allowed. Things would have to be decided like what calls can be appealed and who and when can they appeal to the replay umpire. In football, the white hat is in charge of everything and he always looks that a replays and determines the call. In baseball, the crew chief in in change of the umpires and the entire crew runs the show. Umpires are each assigned a responsibility and know what it is. If you see something differently and it is not your responsibility, you don't say anything unless asked for your opinion by another umpire. Assigning someone to be the person that tells the umpire they are wrong seems like a tough job, but with the proper thought and logic put into it, I think something workable could be put into place. I think manager should have no part in the instant replay process, it should be 100% assigned to the umpires. So, unlike football, no challenges and no special treatment after say the 8th inning (like they have after 2:00 left in football). The other problem is the live ball vs. dead ball problem. For example, fair and foul, foul produces a dead ball while fair is a live ball. Reversing a foul call to fair is pointless unless the umpire just decides what probably would have happened. Also, if a call gets reverse, say a fly ball to the outfield with runners on first and third and one out. It is called no catch and both runner score. Call reversed, it was actually a catch, what do you do with the runners? If it were catch, the person from third probably would have scored on the sac fly and the person on first would probably have stay there. Can we really award a run on a reversal?

The strike zone *is* subjective, though. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37689598)

The official rule:

Strike Zone is the area over home plate, the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the knee cap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.

What if the robot can't see the top of my pants? (My shirt is loose and blouses over)
What if my shoulders are angled? (Where's the 'top'?)
What if I have loose pants and a locked knee stance? (Where's my knee, and thus the hollow below the cap?)
When does the robot determine the boundaries of the zone? (If it's at the windup, I'll crouch during it then stand up. If it's as the pitch comes in, I'll squat on high strikes)

A living, breathing umpire makes all these subjective decisions on every pitch. There's no way to trick the umpire into giving you a smaller or undefined strike zone.

You have to keep umpires, even if there's instant replay.

For another example: on a large fraction of 6-4-3 and 4-6-3 double plays, the infielder making the play at second base doesn't actually tag the bag. Umpires are very generous on the player touching the base on the turn. Relying on a robot to make that call would be incredibly disruptive with the way that call has been made for over a century.

Re:The strike zone *is* subjective, though. (3, Insightful)

pwileyii (106242) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689812)

To comment on a point you made on the double play, the umpires allow the player to not touch the base to avoid injury from the incoming base runner. In the umpires judgment, the player would need to have been able to touch the base. Players, umpires, and managers all agree on this point and would rather short cut the touching of the base than risk a serious injury to a player.

Re:The strike zone *is* subjective, though. (1)

Zebraheaded (1229302) | more than 2 years ago | (#37690052)

I'm aware of this. My point though is how would the robot do this? Do the batter have a 1-ft bubble around him, and if that bubble touches the bag the runner is out? What if using that 1-ft bubble was the only way the fielder could have beaten the runner to the bag? Does the robot have the ability to identify that and make the correct call?

Re:The strike zone *is* subjective, though. (2)

pwileyii (106242) | more than 2 years ago | (#37690926)

I assumed you were aware, I just wanted to let other people know the reason behind allowing the fielder to not tag the base. I don't think a robot could handle the flexibility and abstractness of the baseball rule set (or nearly any complex team sport in general). There are so many situations in baseball that a robot couldn't handle. Think about the balk rules, it is difficult for even an experienced umpire to see some balks, which is why you have four umpires looking for them. Interference and obstruction are also subjective to the situation. Did you the batter lean into the pitch to get hit? Did the batter get in the way of the catcher trying to throw out a runner stealing third? Did the batter offer at the pitch (a subjective item that commentators try to define, though it isn't)? Did the fielder drop the ball on the transfer from glove to throwing hand or on the catch?

Robots couldn't handle any of these situation because they are all subjective and need judgment to decide. When I was in umpire school if an argument ensued, the statement we always give is the call was made in my judgment, because judgment calls can't be challenged. If you mistook the rules though, the manager could protest the game. If they won the protest, that was basically your pink slip.

Add refs watching from TV booth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37689606)

I think all sports should have multiple refs in booths watching video and being able to replay, stop, pause, etc. If they see something call the ump on the field to tell him what happened.

These games are too fast for the officials on the field. Take advantage of technology by having officials watching on film and give them the power to make calls just as the officials on the field.

Don't get rid of the on-field officials, but add some watching on tv.

The strike zone *is* subjective, though. (4, Insightful)

Zebraheaded (1229302) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689624)

(goddamn it, I wasn't logged in) The official rule: Strike Zone is the area over home plate, the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the knee cap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball. What if the robot can't see the top of my pants? (My shirt is loose and blouses over) What if my shoulders are angled? (Where's the 'top'?) What if I have loose pants and a locked knee stance? (Where's my knee, and thus the hollow below the cap?) When does the robot determine the boundaries of the zone? (If it's at the windup, I'll crouch during it then stand up. If it's as the pitch comes in, I'll squat on high strikes) A living, breathing umpire makes all these subjective decisions on every pitch. There's no way to trick the umpire into giving you a smaller or undefined strike zone. You have to keep umpires, even if there's instant replay. For another example: on a large fraction of 6-4-3 and 4-6-3 double plays, the infielder making the play at second base doesn't actually tag the bag. Umpires are very generous on the player touching the base on the turn. Relying on a robot to make that call would be incredibly disruptive with the way that call has been made for over a century.

Re:The strike zone *is* subjective, though. (1)

Zebraheaded (1229302) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689642)

and my formatting broke. shit where's my coffee? The official rule:

Strike Zone is the area over home plate, the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the knee cap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball.

What if the robot can't see the top of my pants? (My shirt is loose and blouses over)
What if my shoulders are angled? (Where's the 'top'?)
What if I have loose pants and a locked knee stance? (Where's my knee, and thus the hollow below the cap?)
When does the robot determine the boundaries of the zone? (If it's at the windup, I'll crouch during it then stand up. If it's as the pitch comes in, I'll squat on high strikes)

A living, breathing umpire makes all these subjective decisions on every pitch. There's no way to trick the umpire into giving you a smaller or undefined strike zone.

You have to keep umpires, even if there's instant replay.

For another example: on a large fraction of 6-4-3 and 4-6-3 double plays, the infielder making the play at second base doesn't actually tag the bag. Umpires are very generous on the player touching the base on the turn. Relying on a robot to make that call would be incredibly disruptive with the way that call has been made for over a century.

Re:The strike zone *is* subjective, though. (1)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 2 years ago | (#37690074)

Yeah, I pretty much agree with you. I like the semi-looseness of baseball: the phantom tags and such. Some of that has just been developed naturally for safety over the years and you would pretty much have to outlaw any kind of take-out slide to also eliminate phantom tags and such.

To me, baseball is what it is today from its history, nostalgia, and aura around the game. It might sound somewhat mystical, but in some ways, the umpires are as important to the game as the players. Plus, I don't want baseball to turn into football where they spend three minutes looking to make sure the feet land in bounds and all that, though I guess I don't mind instant replay for non-subjective things like foul balls and home runs.

Re:The strike zone *is* subjective, though. (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 2 years ago | (#37690814)

What if the robot can't see the top of my pants? (My shirt is loose and blouses over)

Then the umpire can't either. If the umpire can infer the location of the top of the strike zone, so can the robot.

What if my shoulders are angled? (Where's the 'top'?)

Umpires apply a heuristic to solve this problem. So will the robot.

What if I have loose pants and a locked knee stance? (Where's my knee, and thus the hollow below the cap?)

Umpires apply a heuristic to solve this problem. So will the robot.

When does the robot determine the boundaries of the zone? (If it's at the windup, I'll crouch during it then stand up. If it's as the pitch comes in, I'll squat on high strikes)

Over the same time range that umpires do. It is not clear why you are insisting arbitrarily and without any reason whatsoever that the robot must determine the boundaries of the zone from a single time-point. Is that the way umpires do it? If not, why would you insist that a robot do it that way, rather than doing what umpires do? And no, "umpires do something mysterious and magical that can't be captured by heuristics" is not an argument: it is a baseless and probably false assertion.

Re:The strike zone *is* subjective, though. (1)

Zebraheaded (1229302) | more than 2 years ago | (#37691128)

What if the robot can't see the top of my pants? (My shirt is loose and blouses over)

Then the umpire can't either. If the umpire can infer the location of the top of the strike zone, so can the robot.

The umpire can see where the top of your pants is when you walk up to bat, when you stretch before a pitch, etc. He defines "about" where it is. The robot has to know "exactly" where it is. There's a huge difference there.

What if my shoulders are angled? (Where's the 'top'?)

Umpires apply a heuristic to solve this problem. So will the robot.

No, he'll determine which shoulder is dominant for your stance through his experience of the game and knowledge of your swing.

What if I have loose pants and a locked knee stance? (Where's my knee, and thus the hollow below the cap?)

Umpires apply a heuristic to solve this problem. So will the robot.

The umpire will know from when you walk up where your knees are. He'll identify a spot of dirt, a loose thread, or just remember where your knee is.

When does the robot determine the boundaries of the zone? (If it's at the windup, I'll crouch during it then stand up. If it's as the pitch comes in, I'll squat on high strikes)

Over the same time range that umpires do. It is not clear why you are insisting arbitrarily and without any reason whatsoever that the robot must determine the boundaries of the zone from a single time-point. Is that the way umpires do it? If not, why would you insist that a robot do it that way, rather than doing what umpires do? And no, "umpires do something mysterious and magical that can't be captured by heuristics" is not an argument: it is a baseless and probably false assertion.

Again, incorrect. An umpire will determine what your actual stance is. If I stay crouched down in a full squat during pitches I take, but bounce up straight in a swing, that is what the umpire will use to determine my strike zone, not the squat. The robot cannot do this. If I take the first pitch while in the crouch, the robot cannot know what my strike zone is during my swing. It cannot go back to a previous at-bat either because stances change, what was a strike yesterday is not necessarily a strike today. The umpire *can*, however, say "Hey, you're being an asshole and squatting, and that is not your true strike zone, I'm calling anything even close a strike." which is the right thing to do. Is the robot ump going to call balks? Is it going to determine intention on pitches hitting batters? If it can't do those things, and you need an ump anyway, then why have the robot? Also: "umpires do something mysterious and magical that can't be captured by heuristics" is not an argument: it is a baseless and probably false assertion. Actually they can, it's called 'thinking'.

Re:The strike zone *is* subjective, though. (1)

nasor (690345) | more than 2 years ago | (#37691660)

The umpire can see where the top of your pants is when you walk up to bat, when you stretch before a pitch, etc. He defines "about" where it is. The robot has to know "exactly" where it is. There's a huge difference there.

The robot doesn't have to know "exactly" where the top of your pants are. It can define a zone of probability based on your body shape etc. and go with what it thinks to be most likely. This might not be perfect, but it would likely be much more accurate and precise than the best a human umpire could do attempting to estimate/remember where the top of the pants are.

No, he'll determine which shoulder is dominant for your stance through his experience of the game and knowledge of your swing.

It would be a relatively simple problem to program the robot to analyze the shape of a stance and determine which shoulder is dominate based on that.

The umpire will know from when you walk up where your knees are. He'll identify a spot of dirt, a loose thread, or just remember where your knee is.

See above. The robot will almost certainly be better at this than a human umpire.

An umpire will determine what your actual stance is. If I stay crouched down in a full squat during pitches I take, but bounce up straight in a swing, that is what the umpire will use to determine my strike zone, not the squat. The robot cannot do this.

Of course the robot can do that. It would be a trivial problem (by image-recognition/analysis standards) to program the robot to consider how the player's stance changed over time before and after the pitch.

The umpire *can*, however, say "Hey, you're being an asshole and squatting, and that is not your true strike zone, I'm calling anything even close a strike." which is the right thing to do.

I bet you already know what I'm going to say here. It would be easy for the robot to keep a record of previous at-bats and analyze them appropriately.

Actually they can, it's called 'thinking'.

Umm, no one is planning to ask the array of cameras and image-analysis software to write a 50 page essay on the nature of love, or anything else that requires any sort of complex, critical thought. Everything that it would need to do would be a (relatively) simply matter of heuristic image analysis and statistics.

Re:The strike zone *is* subjective, though. (1)

Zebraheaded (1229302) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692052)

An umpire will determine what your actual stance is. If I stay crouched down in a full squat during pitches I take, but bounce up straight in a swing, that is what the umpire will use to determine my strike zone, not the squat. The robot cannot do this.

Of course the robot can do that. It would be a trivial problem (by image-recognition/analysis standards) to program the robot to consider how the player's stance changed over time before and after the pitch.

The umpire *can*, however, say "Hey, you're being an asshole and squatting, and that is not your true strike zone, I'm calling anything even close a strike." which is the right thing to do.

I bet you already know what I'm going to say here. It would be easy for the robot to keep a record of previous at-bats and analyze them appropriately.

Actually they can, it's called 'thinking'.

Umm, no one is planning to ask the array of cameras and image-analysis software to write a 50 page essay on the nature of love, or anything else that requires any sort of complex, critical thought. Everything that it would need to do would be a (relatively) simply matter of heuristic image analysis and statistics.

See , you have no idea what you're talking about here. Determining a strike zone *does* require complex/critical thought if you're going to do it correctly. If it's not complex and critical, it's being done wrong.

On the stances you missed the entire point. Historical analysis will tell you almost nothing about the current stance. For example, Cal Ripken Jr. He had a different stance legitimately almost every at-bat. He would tailor it to the situation and what he hoped to accomplish. Historical analysis would do nothing to determine the validity of his stance. So unless the robot had a Cal Ripken switch, all your magical heuristics would fail.

Even if they got the robot to "sort of" work, players would figure out how to game the robot, and the moment that happens in a big game, everyone would be clamoring for real live umpires again.

It would *never* work. It boggles my mind that people think a robot could even do a passable job, let alone a better one that we currently get.

Re:The strike zone *is* subjective, though. (1)

itchythebear (2198688) | more than 2 years ago | (#37690982)

What if the robot can't see the top of my pants? (My shirt is loose and blouses over)
What if my shoulders are angled? (Where's the 'top'?)
What if I have loose pants and a locked knee stance? (Where's my knee, and thus the hollow below the cap?)
When does the robot determine the boundaries of the zone? (If it's at the windup, I'll crouch during it then stand up. If it's as the pitch comes in, I'll squat on high strikes)

Actually, I think determining all that to a very high degree of accuracy is possible with just software based on a certain set of criteria, but I don't think it matters anyways.

Sports are overall very subjective. They are heavily based on emotion, feeling, and the heat of the moment. When I go to a hockey game I don't go thinking "I hope every call is made perfectly", I go thinking "I hope this game is exciting and I have a good time". Part of what makes sports so much fun is the drama of good and bad calls and players pushing themselves to their limits.

If a hockey player makes a great steal, dekes out 2 defenders and then blasts a slapshot past the goalie, then that's exciting and is the reason why most people watch the game. But if one of his teammates, who wasn't even involved in the play, was offsides by something only noticable to a computer and play is stopped or the goal disallowed, then the game becomes less interesting.

Judgment calls are made all the time based on extenuating circumstances. For example, during the playoffs officials typically call much fewer penalties than they do during the regular season. This gives players a little more margin for error so they can play harder and helps prevent a game (and potentially a series) from being decided based on a ticky-tack call.

Sorry to totally hijack this and make it about hockey, but I'm just not that familiar with baseball. :(

tl;dr: Sports are games played by people, for the enjoyment of people, and should be judged by people.

Re:The strike zone *is* subjective, though. (1)

Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) | more than 2 years ago | (#37691648)

There's no way to trick the umpire into giving you a smaller or undefined strike zone.

This, sadly, is not true. A study at the Hardball Times [hardballtimes.com] showed that umpires vary by up to about 5% from the league average in terms of the number of strikes they call, which suggests that human umps aren't so good at calling the defined zone. Umpires have idiosyncratic strike zones, based on personal interpretation of the strike zone, and often on what they can see based on where they set up behind the catcher. Some call strike zones wildly different from the rule book one (most famously, Eric Gregg consistently calling strikes on pitches a foot off of the plate in game 7 of the 1997 NLCS). There have always been batters who tried to shrink the strike zone through an exaggerated crouch before the swing. Rickey Henderson might be the best known recent example of this. Catchers have always attempted to "frame" pitches to convince the ump that a borderline pitch was a strike. It's been the traditional belief that this is one of the most important skills a catcher can have, and an outstanding recent study [baseballprospectus.com] demonstrated that catchers can indeed succeed in this. The study suggests that the best at framing pitches (Jose Molina) saves about 60 runs a year over the worst at it (Jorge Posada or Ryan Doumit). 60 runs in a season is worth about 6 wins, using the standard sabermetric [wikipedia.org] translation of 10 runs of player value equalling 1 win. 6 wins is a massive swing, the equivalent of replacing a player of little better than AAA quality player with an All Star, maybe the 2011 performance of Evan Longoria or Adrian Beltre. Even if you compare Molina not to a bad catcher but to an average one (and thus, theoretically, the correct or at least average strike zone) , you find that he's still winning 3 or 4 extra games by framing pitches, the equivalent of upgrading an average player to Longoria or Beltre. The thing is, Jose Molina pulls it off entirely by tricking the umpire.

Now, framing pitches and fooling umpires has a long history and is very much a part of the fabric of the game. You can argue that it rewards a player like Jose Molina who has a real and now measurable skill, and penalizes players like Doumit and Posada who are poor at this important aspect of their jobs. Thus there isn't any real moral imperative to get rid of human umpires, other than the worst ones. But you can't argue that human umps can't be tricked, and you can't argue that human umps successfully call the subjective strike zone.

Re:The strike zone *is* subjective, though. (1)

Scroatzilla (672804) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692202)

This paragraph reminds me of a baseball game. Way too long, and packed full of stuff that makes me sleepy.

Umpires making the call (1)

voss (52565) | more than 2 years ago | (#37689770)

Its part of the game. However I can see using the computers to see how often umpires bad calls and getting rid of bad umpires.

Great for the Business of Baseball (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37689886)

I don’t follow sports at all but I think it would be great for the Business of Baseball. There would be no more arguing with an autonomous robo-umpire. Delaying the game penalties for violating game rules would be swift and irrevocable. These robo-umpire would also have on board drug testing for amphetamines and steroids they will test the air surrounding tens of thousands of times a second for contraband, sorry Fairy Ponds. The games out-come would be a measurable statistical, fouls and outs would be regulated to exacting precision with digital censers every where. The field censors would tracking the ball as it flies and determine it’s ultimate path and relaying to the robo-announcer blaring out the results before they happen. This would a be boom to those who thrive on illicit activity of leveraged predications of sporting events, to the point they will finish taking over the game. Wouldn’t it all be better it the players were replaced by robots too, no more strikes or expensive salaries?

replace owners and commish (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37689896)

If you want to improve the game, replace all the owners and the commissioner with robots!

"Kill the umpire!" (1)

wfstanle (1188751) | more than 2 years ago | (#37690122)

It would not be good for the game. Some favorite chants of the crowd would no longer be valid. No more "Kill the umpire!" or "The umpire is blind!"? You will take away a vital part of the game.

Before robots can they just use INSTANT REPLAY? (1)

darkjohnson (640563) | more than 2 years ago | (#37690764)

With all the high speed multiple angles on all bases - why the hell don't they at least use instant replay. We've all seen the bad game changing calls. Time for that to end.

Tech is already here (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#37691078)

Pitch f/x can already be used to determine balls and strikes. It may not be perfect, but it's a darn sight better than the inconsistent strike zones we see on a regular basis. Right now each umpire has his own strike zone - and some even talk about it as if the definition of the zone is their own rather than what's defined in the rulebook.

Alternatively - if we could just get rid of C.B. Bucknor the average quality of baseball umpiring would go up dramatically.

FWIW I used to be against any sort of automated ball/strike determination, but I've seen so many bad calls I've come around.

Re:Tech is already here (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37691488)

hmm, I like the human element, including the mistakes. The more you automated it, the more boring it gets. I also suspect viewership will change because right now, not matter what team you like, you always have a common enemy, the umpire and his 'idiot' calls.

I mean, with a perfect system, you can't even argue about any details.

OTOH, major televised sports event can go the way of the dodo as far as I'm concerned. They have been an annoyance my entire life.

Re:Tech is already here (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692028)

hmm, I like the human element, including the mistakes. The more you automated it, the more boring it gets.

Funny thing is, for most parts of the game I agree with you - I wouldn't want to see an automated system of sensors to determine whether or not a runner is safe at first, for example. But it seems like I've seen so many really bad ball/strike calls, I wouldn't mind that being automated.

Of course training might also be able to address that issue. A few years back MLB decided to crack down on inconsistent strike zones, and for a while it really seemed to make a difference - but now we seem to be back to the idea of umpires having their own personal strike zones (which may or may not be similar to the zone defined in the rulebook).

Dumb. Seriously dumb. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37691322)

The human element is what makes the game interesting. The umps do the best job they can, and sometimes they blow it. But the game is FAR better with that element than a robot.

What's next? I'd like to see the baseball in play on EVERY pitch. So let's get a pitching machine and a batting machine out on the field. We just need a fielding machine and the game would be so interesting! Why the hell would I want to make my game suck harder by having people involved?

Pretty trivial (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37691430)

You can use cameras to detect ball location around strike zone. Get rid you that responsibility.
Nearly every play can be called automatically.
It's the close tags that are the only real issue.

Robot Umpires? (1)

braindrainbahrain (874202) | more than 2 years ago | (#37692174)

Sure, why not? Because fans might get upset if the call doesn't favor their team?

Hey, nobody protests when we decide elections by voting machines!

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